Never Look Away (German: Werk ohne Autor, lit. 'Work Without Author'), is a 2018 German drama film directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It was selected to be screened in the main competition section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival. It was also selected as the German entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. It made the December shortlist in 2018, before being nominated for the Academy Award in January 2019.
Inspired by the life of the German painter Gerhard Richter, who sees the film as an "abuse and grossly distort[ing]" of his biography, the story follows art student Kurt Barnert in post-war East Germany. He falls in love with fellow student Ellie Seeband, but her father, Professor Carl Seeband, opposes their relationship. Complications arise as Carl’s role in the Nazi eugenics program becomes known.
During a visit of the exhibition "Entartete Kunst" (degenerate art) in Dresden, five-year old Kurt gets told by his aunt Elisabeth to "never look away because everything that is true holds beauty in it". He will keep this advice close to his heart for the rest of his life, even when his aunt is taken away during Nazi times because she is suspected to be schizophrenic. While Kurt witnesses the bombing of Dresden during WWII, his aunt is first sterilized and later killed by the Nazis, and in particular by Prof. Carl Seeband, who is the chair of the Dresden women’s clinic and a member of the SS. After the war, Seeband is first arrested by the Russians but later released when he can save an officer’s wife while giving birth. Grateful for saving his wife and child, the Russian officer protects Seeband and the former Nazi is released. Meanwhile, Kurt Barnert begins to study painting at the Dresden art school where he meets Elizabeth Seeband who reminds him of his aunt, not knowing that she is the daughter of the SS doctor responsible for his aunt’s murder. He successfully continues his studies, but is forced to complete paintings that reflect social realism which is an ideology and field of art that he cannot come to terms with. Eventually, Kurt meets Elizabeth’s father, who has left his Nazi past behind and now follows the socialist ideology of East Germany. Kurt still does not know that Carl Seeband is responsible for his aunt’s death. Even though, Seeband does not approve of his daughter’s relationship with Kurt, he accepts it. When Elizabeth gets pregnant, Seeband lies and performs an abortion, to stop his daughter from mixing her genes with Kurt’s who he believes carries his aunt’s mental problems in his genes. However, Kurt and Elizabeth’s relationship becomes even stronger and eventually the two get married and eventually flee to Western Germany. Fearing prosecution after the Russian officer who got him released earlier is sent back to Moscow, Seeband and his wife, Elisabeth’s parents, had already left Eastern Germany. Kurt lies about his age in order to be admitted to the famous art academy in Dusseldorf where he can study and practice art more freely than in socialist Eastern Germany. His teacher realizes Barnert’s talent as an artist, but Kurt struggles to find his personal style. Inspired by a newspaper article about a captured Nazi doctor, he starts copying black-and-white photographs in his paintings. When Seeband sees a collage painting of Kurt’s aunt and the Nazi-doctor, he flees, even though the work is more of an accidental montage than a painting created to accuse Seeband of his Nazi past. After years of infertility due to the abortion her father performed on her, Elizabeth surprisingly becomes pregnant after all and Kurt earns success through the paintings in which he processes his childhood memories.
I (Pieter) saw this three hours movie in German language with Dutch subtitles in the Art House Cinema 'Focus Filmtheater' in Arnhem on Monday evening.
What surprises you bring with you, I must say... Werk Ohne Antor sounds very interesting with such twists and turns to say least of all. With this, an opportunity to share in the film, life in the old DDR. With this, the life of Painter Gerhard Richter. In my minds eye, I then see through him, your life as a painter and bringing to life, emages from what you see and to transform through your mind, a rendition upon canvass. People of your self, is the jewel of life we keep sacred. For even in the worse of times, yours and others works of art is always so precious as to be protected and saved for other generations to see.
But, the big surprise was the story with Joseph Beuys. This man masquerades as almost my twin brother and has the gall to wear my hat. He actually thinks he is an artist,,which he is, and a very fine one along with some other talents.
Whilst as shown, the man actually believes he is sharing a room with a wild Coyote, do not believe that, for in actual manner, the room actually belongs to Mr. Coyote, and Mr. Coyote is simply sharing the room with Joseph out of the kindness of his heart.
Düsseldorf is very close to Arnhem and in my personal humble opinion Joseph Beuys heritage was present at the Arnhem art academy. I had a German teacher ( heinerholtappels.nl/ ) who was a student of Joseph Beuys in the sixties. Via that teacher I am connected to Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter. Not only that German teacher was influenced by German art, the German political and social-cultural and intellectual climate of that time, but also my Dutch teachers. To be frank I was and am very fond of the heavy and thorough work of Anselm Kiefer (born 8 March 1945). Kiefer studied with Joseph Beuys and Peter Dreher during the 1970s. His works incorporate materials such as straw, ash, clay, lead, and shellac. The poems of Paul Celan have played a role in developing Kiefer's themes of German history and the horror of the Holocaust, as have the spiritual concepts of Kabbalah.
In his entire body of work, Kiefer argues with the past and addresses taboo and controversial issues from recent history. Themes from Nazi rule are particularly reflected in his work; for instance, the painting "Margarethe" (oil and straw on canvas) was inspired by Paul Celan's well-known poem "Todesfuge" ("Death Fugue").
His works are characterised by an unflinching willingness to confront his culture's dark past, and unrealised potential, in works that are often done on a large, confrontational scale well suited to the subjects. It is also characteristic of his work to find signatures and/or names of people of historical importance, legendary figures or historical places. All of these are encoded sigils through which Kiefer seeks to process the past; this has resulted in his work being linked with the movements New Symbolism and Neo–Expressionism.
The term "capitalist realism" has been used, particularly in Germany, to describe commodity-based art, from Pop Art in the 1950s and 1960s to the commodity art of the 1980s and 1990s. Alternatively, it has been used to describe the ideological-aesthetic aspect of contemporary corporate capitalism in the West. When used in this way, it is a play on the term "socialist realism".
Anselm Kiefer is a German artist who has explored his country’s postwar identity, history, and mythology throughout his career. A painter, sculptor, and installation artist, materiality figures heavily into Kiefer’s practice. His large-scale paintings achieve their characteristic texture through his liberal application of pigments combined with found organic matter, metal, and lead, resulting in stark, haunting images with an imposing physicality. “Ruins, for me, are the beginning,” he mused. “With the debris, you can construct new ideas. They are symbols of a beginning.” Born on March 8, 1945 in Donaueschingen, Germany, Kiefer grew up in the aftermath of bombed houses, something which made a profound impact on him. The artist went on to study under the influential Conceptual artist Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. While in Düsseldorf during the 1970s, he developed an interest in working with diverse materials and was influenced by the Neo-Expressionist paintersGeorg Baselitz and Jörg Immendorf. In 2016, the artist’s exhibition “Walhalla”—which takes its name from the warrior’s heaven of Norse mythology—opened at White Cube gallery in London to critical acclaim. Kiefer currently lives and works in Paris, France. His works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art in Amsterdam, among others.